On August 25, 1957, the best remedy for a hot summer day may have been a popular, sweet, jiggly treat: Jello Salad. Many, many recipes abound for this shiny slice of Americana, which took the country by storm in the 1950s. Ingredients included Jello, of course, in one of its many flavor and color incarnations, fruit, cheese, mayonnaise (!), vegetables, nuts, and marshmallows. After Cool Whip was invented in 1967, it became a popular addition and an easy way to create a fancy, creamy layer on the top of a molded gelatin salad, often shaped into a ring with architectural patterns.
In 1957, however, convenient Cool Whip had yet to be created. Housewives who wanted the same rich smoothness needed to use something else, like cottage cheese or real whipping cream. From Strictly Personal: The Family Book, by members of the Emblem Club of the Elks Club, Dover, New Jersey, 1956-1957, comes this classic version by Mavis McDougall:
Cottage Cheese and Jello Salad
1 package lime Jello
3/4 lb. cottage cheese
1/4 cup light cream (top milk)
1 small can crushed pineapple
Drain juice from pineapple, add enough water to make 1 cup. Heat and add to Jello. When it starts to thicken, stir in cheese which has been mixed with cream. Stir in pineapple.
Mavis didn’t explain to the readers of Strictly Personal that they would need to refrigerate the salad in order for it to set. She didn’t need to – it was common knowledge and part of our 1950s culinary heritage.